Love the one you're with

We know we are more likely to reap returns from someone who already does business with us than with a new prospect.

We know we are more likely to reap returns from someone who already does business with us than with a new prospect. Yet, we just can't resist the lure of someone new. Ask any PR agency owner how the business is doing and the response usually begins with what new business just came in the door or what new business is on the horizon. Rarely do owners wax poetic about the client they've had for five years delivering a 10% budget increase. Look at the industry headlines and see how many are about keeping an existing client versus winning a new client.

There is a disconnect somewhere between the brain and the heart that causes many to put the search for the next client ahead of serving the current one. Some may say one doesn't have to be at the expense of the other. But prospects tell us repeatedly the same reasons they became dissatisfied with their previous agency. The root of their discontent is a feeling of playing second fiddle. Consider these three complaints.

“We met the senior staff at the pitch and never saw them again.”

“Our day-to-day contact kept changing, and with every change, a more junior person was put on our business.”

“The agency didn't seem willing to invest in getting to know us better, only in delivering the minimum work under the scope.”

Why should an agency change its ways? Again, we know the cost of attracting a new client is much higher than expanding with a current client. We know our current clients serve as referral sources not only to new prospects, but can lead us to more business through their other divisions, sister companies, and vendors. We know our staff will have lower learning curves and can deliver profits to our bottom line faster.  

So what should we do to act on this knowledge? The answer lies in promoting a culture that rewards organic growth with the same fervor as new business growth. Start simple. At rbb Public Relations, we have a monthly client services award program where each team submits a one-page sheet on what it did to add value to the client that month and extra billings yield big points. The team named monthly or overall annual winner enjoys the recognition and reward. It's a big deal. Treat every client like a new client, and everyone will have a happier and more profitable outcome.

Christine Barney is CEO of rbb Public Relations. She can be reached at

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